As many of you know, my position at The King’s University College is coming to a close at the end of the month. The deal brokered between (the now defunct) Taylor University College, The King’s University College, and Alberta Advanced Education for King’s to “hold” Taylor’s four-year B.A. for four years to ensure students have the opportunity to finish their program of studies. As part of that deal, I was hired by King’s to bring them up to the three required faculty members in theology. The plan was for King’s to develop their own four-year degree and my position would have potentially turned into a tenure track position, but, as you know, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. For a variety of reasons, no four-year program was developed and thus as of June 30 2013, there is no need for a third theology professor. So, I knew pretty much since early September I was facing a transition at the end of the academic year — a transition to what was unknown, but a transition nonetheless.
My family and I had also decided that moving away from Edmonton wasn’t an option for us. That meant my transition would more than likely be outside academia. Over the course of the year I considered positions in academic administration, management in not-for-profit organizations, business, as well as the pastoral ministry. But it was to this last option that I kept coming back. When I first became a Christian and embarked on my journey with biblical and theological studies it was to become a pastor. After some pastoral work, I entered the academy and taught biblical and theological studies for over sixteen years. But throughout my academic career always I sought to bridge the gap between the academy and the church and intentionally maintained significant involvement in the local church. I preached and taught regularly, organized and presented public lectures, led Bible studies, and wrote both academic and popular material (particularly in this blog). Over the last number of years, I have also had a growing conviction that the separation between the church and academy, between pastor and professor, as well as the increasing specialization in academia has not served God’s kingdom well. It was with this conviction and sense of calling that I entered into a conversation with a local church to discern the possibility of serving as their lead pastor. Through the application process and multiple meetings and interviews it became increasingly clear that it was a good fit for both the congregation and myself. This last Sunday the congregation voted overwhelmingly (99%) in favour of extending me a call, and I accepted. All this is to say that effective July 1, 2013, I will be serving as the lead pastor of Greenfield Baptist Church in Edmonton, AB.
I find the possibility of using my gifts and abilities within the church in the longstanding tradition of the great pastor-theologians of the early church an exciting prospect.
I just returned from a nice long weekend away with the family. This was one of our annual trips that with a couple other families. We took the kids tubing at the lake, went ATV-ing, sat around the campfire and played various games. All in all it was a great weekend. Another regular part of this weekend is that the guys head out early one morning for a round of golf. I enjoy golf, although I am not very good at it and I only seem to get out half a dozen times a year. I had one of the best games in years earlier this summer when I shot a 47 (on 9 holes) on a father’s day outing.
This last weekend we teed off Sunday morning for our annual game. It was an absolutely beautiful morning and the course was in superb condition. I was looking forward to this round since I have been playing pretty good this summer so far. The one downer was that I didn’t bring my own clubs (which are nothing special, but I am used to them), due to a miscommunication about whether or not we were playing. So I had rentals, which I usually don’t mind since they give me a chance to try out a newer set of clubs.
Then it started. Third off the tee box. I lined up with my rented driver and swung and heard a nice smack and watched the ball sail at least 250 yards… right into the trees, never to return. The cause: a magnificent slice. Something I hadn’t done for most of the summer. I decide to take a mulligan since I have to get used to the rentals. A second swing. An impressive smack. And I again watched my ball turn a right angle into the forest. I decide to place a ball where it went out and started walking down the fairway enjoying the beautiful weather with my mind still in the game. I drop a ball at the appropriate spot, take out my 4 iron, and duff it. By the time I get to the green I am already sitting six and then proceed to three putt it.
I won’t describe any more of my game, except to say that I had pretty much my worst game in a long time. I was slicing. I was topping balls. I was hitting the sand traps. I was not having a good game.
Around the 6th hole my mind turned to Scripture. More specifically my mind turned to the book of Ecclesiastes (Qohelet in the Hebrew Bible). “All is vanity/meaningless”; or as I prefer to translate hebel, “All is absurd.” I thought of the absurdity of ruining a perfectly good walk through God’s beautiful creation by trying to hit a stupid white ball into a hole hundreds of yards away with only a club. Throughout the rest of the game I thought of other lines from Ecclesiastes:
What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun [chasing a stupid white ball]? (Eccl 1:3)
All is absurd and a chasing after [stupid white balls] (Eccl 1:14)
A time to [hit balls] away [into the rough], and a time to look for [stupid white balls] in the rough (Eccl 3:5)
Cast your [balls] upon the water [hazard], for after many days you will get it back [yeah, right!] (Eccl 11:1)
I still like golf, although any delusions I had that my game was getting better were dashed this last Sunday. In this respect, golf is very much like the book of Ecclesiastes. A peruse through Ecclesiastes also dashes any illusions that we are in control of our lives; that what we do in this fallen hebel world will always go according to our best laid plans. I like the way Eugene Peterson described the book of Ecclesiastes:
[It is] a John the Baptist kind of book. It functions not as a meal but as a bath. It is not nourishment; it is cleansing. It is repentance. It is purging. [We] read Ecclesiastes to get scrubbed clean from illusion and sentiment, from ideas that are idolatrous and feelings that are cloy. It is an exposé and rejection of every pretentious and presumptuous expectation aimed at God (Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, pp. 155-156).
That, my dear reader, is also the function of the game of golf.
Well, I am pretty much unpacked and starting to get organized in my new digs at The King’s University College. While I don’t officially start at King’s until July 1 (right now I am on “holidays” from Taylor University College), the folks here have been nice enough to let me into my office early since I wanted to get settled and working as soon as possible.
My new office is huge and even has its own bathroom (King’s bought a hotel as their new campus in the 1990s). My family took some pictures, so I will have to upload them for all to see.
My blogging as been pretty infrequent (as you all know!), though I am hoping to get back on track as I get settled into my new position at King’s. At the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies annual meeting in Ottawa at the end of May I was actually awarded the Norman E. Wagner award for Technology in Biblical Studies — in part for my blog and Codex website, so I guess I better get back at it!
Speaking of my website, I am in the middle of a huge redesign and updating. I am moving to a content management program (Joomla!) so that it will be easier to keep up to date. I have renamed the site slightly. Now it’s “Codex: Resources for Biblical, Theological, and Religious Studies.” If you want to see a preview of the new site (which is still in process of being updated), you can check it out at http://biblical-studies.ca/codex. I hope to have it live before too long.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more.
Assistant Professor of Theology (Biblical Studies)
The King’s University College
9125-50 Street, Edmonton, AB
Canada T6B 2H3
780-465-3500 x. 8102
tyler [dot] williams [at] kingsu [dot] ca
Last Saturday (April 25, 2009), we celebrated the 68th and final graduation of Taylor University College, Edmonton, Alberta. I also had the privilege of being the Master of Ceremonies at the graduation banquet in the evening. Understandably, the day was bittersweet. It was great to rejoice with those students who completed their programs of study, but it was sad to think that there would be no more graduations for Taylor University College.
I have taught at Taylor University College for twelve years and was deeply involved in the design of the Religion & Theology degree programs. I am also an alumnus of the institution and even met and married my wife of over twenty years during my undergraduate degree (it was called North American Baptist College back then). I have invested a significant part of my personal and professional life at Taylor and will cherish the memories of the excellent colleagues and students I have had over the years.
But life moves on. As of June 30, 2009, Taylor University College will close its doors. After this week, it will for all intents and purposes be closed. Offices are closing, faculty are moving out. As for myself, I am pleased to announce that as of July 1, 2009, I will be Assistant Professor of Theology (Biblical Studies) at The King’s University College here in Edmonton. King’s is a Christian university that offers fully accredited bachelor degrees in the arts and sciences, including a three-year BA in Theology.
King’s worked out a special arrangement with Alberta Advanced Education and Taylor to “hold” Taylor’s four-year Religion & Theology degree for four years. This will allow Taylor’s Religion & Theology students to finish their degrees at King’s. As part of this deal, King’s needed to add a faculty member from Taylor, and I was their choice because of my areas of expertise and program development background. Part of the plan is for King’s to develop their own four-year degree in Theology during the time I am at King’s and that if everything works according to plan, after the four years I will continue at King’s in a tenure track position.
After this week I will be pretty much finished my duties at Taylor. For the month of May I am planning to work primarily at home on my thesis and my paper on LXX Psalm 151 that I am presenting at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies in Ottawa at the end of May. I have arranged to move in to my office at King’s after the conference (probably June 1).
Suffice it to say that I am relieved and thankful that I don’t have to find a job outside of Edmonton or outside of academia and am very excited about this new lease on my academic life at King’s.
I would like to thank all of the people who have expressed concern over the closure of the university college where I teach. There has been no miracle bailout by Bill Gates, so Taylor University College is still slated to close its doors June 30, 2009, after which I will be out of work. The mood at Taylor is a bit odd. On the one hand the semester is moving along as usual with students eager to learn (or at least some students!). On the other hand, students are also preoccupied with decisions about where to finish their studies, and faculty and staff morale is rather low – especially as everyone is scrambling to secure employment for July 1. Some faculty have already found positions, others have a number of good prospects, while a number are considering employment outside academia (whether by choice or circumstance).
My situation has changed somewhat. There is a possibility that I may have a theology teaching position here in Edmonton at another university college. I’m trying not to get too excited about the possibility, since there are a number of things that need to come together for the position to work out. I am still working on my resume and keeping an eye out for other forms of employment, but I am hopeful that I may have the privilege to continue teaching biblical and theological studies in Edmonton.
I do want to thank everyone for the support. I have been amazed at home many shows of support I have received in this situation from so many quarters. I would ask for those who pray to keep praying, especially for faculty and staff who are still looking for new employment.
OK, instead of marking tests tonight I went to go see U2 3D (Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington, 2007; IMDb). I know I lamented that U2 3D wasn’t going to show in Edmonton — and it wasn’t. In part because of the backlash surrounding the fact U2 3D wasn’t going to show (and some local radio stations making some noise), a couple of the larger theater complexes in Edmonton added the necessary 3D projection equipment.
I thought the film was excellent. No narrative, interviews, or other distractions — just U2. It was almost like being there (though I think they could have cranked the volume a bit more at the theater).
Now I have to get back to marking… and guess what music I will be blasting as I do?
OK, that’s irritating. I am in the middle of marking and decided to write a quick post to update everyone on some posts I am working on connected with the exile workshop at the University of Alberta last week, the book of Job, and the state of evangelical biblical scholarship (e.g., the Enns controversy and Kenton Sparks’ new book). I go to publish the post and there is a database error of some sort and I loose it. Blah!
At any rate, my original post was far more polished than this one! Now, back to marking papers…
I really really hate it when I take out a library book only to find that some doorknob has written in it — I don’t care if it is just neat little underlines or asterisks in the margin or dumb comments. I also don’t care if you intend to erase your pencil marks when you are done — it still damages the book. If you want to fold, spindle, or mutilate a book, then buy it yourself!
If you write in library books considered yourself on notice! And stop it!
(And for what it is worth, I personally only make very minor marks in pencil in my own books)
OK, I know I keep saying I will get back to regular blogging. This time I (hopefully) mean it!
I have been swamped with the beginning of the semester things like writing syllabi, updating course webpages, and — perhaps the most time consuming — converting my PowerPoint lecture slides to Keynote (which, btw, I quite like). Of course, it is never as simple as just converting my slides; I must edit and update them as well, which takes even more time!